Laid Off?
January 8, 2002 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Laid Off?
So I was thinking about all the people laid off from dot.coms, and people laid off from places like LTV, luckily I’m not in either group as of yet, but I wonder about the differences. On one hand, the dot.bombers still have their computers, the web is there, so are some jobs, and the possibility of free lance work is always bobbing around, but the glory days are behind us. Steel workers, on the other hand, well… the plant is gone, they can’t open another plant in their basement, plus to make things worse, they are probably older, and less educated, it seems harder to find work.
Who has it worse, and with the current economy, will things get even worse for all of us?
posted by Blake (18 comments total)
As a laid-off dotcommer (tech writer if anyone is looking...) I'm tempted to say that I personally have it worst of all, but I think giving years of your life to one company, one skill set, and one job only to have that pulled out from under you is definitely the shittier end of the stick.

Someone who has put years of his or her life into one job would probably have deep roots in the community. Picking up and moving to find work would not be as viable option for someone in this category as it would be for someone like me, who moved for the dot com job in the first place.
posted by jennyb at 2:18 PM on January 8, 2002

I would much rather be the laid-off dot commer I am than a laid-off steel worker or factory worker. There usually aren't as many jobs for those people, it's harder for them to move (for the reason jennyb stated), and their skill sets are more difficult to transfer.

I immediately got another job (I was a Sys Admin) and realize that it's really hard out there for other dot-commers like web developers, project managers, product managers, etc, but I still think they have it better than unemployeed steel workers...
posted by aacheson at 2:30 PM on January 8, 2002

Firstly there is the difference in expectations - a lot of dotcommers were making a lot of money. It is difficult to find that kind of salaries anymore. An average steelworker was not making so much money. Its easier for them to transition into a lateral job.

Then consider the glut of techworkers in the market: The supply of tech workers is a lot more than demand right now. Part of it is disinclination of corporations to invest in even business critical projects in the current climate. Part of it is also that the bubble has bust and the market is becoming a lot more comtetitive. If we assume that the average shelf life of a developer is 9 months, it would still take about 6 months to a year for the market to correct itslef. It is already happening. I heard the other day about a dotcommer acquaintance who has gone back to civil engineering.

On the other hand, the average age of a tech sector employee is a lot less than the steelworkers. Most dotcommers dont carry the burden of having to feed their children etc. It is much tougher when you are 50, have a 5 person family, a mortgage, not a great salary and you get laid off.

The steelworkers will continue to have a raw deal - unless US suddenly becomes protectionist or becomes very innovative about bringing down cost (ala Alcoa). But I think in the short term, we guys in the internet economy have justifiable cause for wallowing in self pity too.
posted by justlooking at 2:41 PM on January 8, 2002

I just worry about those who, thinking they were adapting to history, went back to school to learn Web Design. **shudders**
posted by argybarg at 2:42 PM on January 8, 2002

::regarding argybarg's statement::

doh... i already knew i was so screwed, but it still sucks to be reminded of said screwing.
posted by lotsofno at 2:46 PM on January 8, 2002

I'm in my mid-twenties in NYC and I've noticed that almost everyone I know seems to be going through a sort of re-evaluation of their occupation and environment. Could be a product of the age alone, but it seems to me that it's a product of two things:

1. When we all graduated from college in the mid to late nineties, it seemed like there was this fantasy world of dot-coms in major urban centers whose demise has been discussed interminably. Now that it's gone, we all have to grow up.

2. The aftermath of 9/11 was such that it's only now that matters of longevity, and not-necessarily-life-and-death are starting to sink in.
posted by Sinner at 2:56 PM on January 8, 2002

I got laid off last week, not from a but from a financial company where I did web development. Since last Thursday, I've applied for forty jobs that I'm actually qualified for (and seen probably a hundred other entry level things in other areas that I could do as well). I haven't heard back on anything yet, but I imagine that I will eventually before my unemployment and severance run out in nine months. I can't imagine being so confident if I were a steel worker. Obviously, they have it much, much worse.
posted by akmonday at 3:23 PM on January 8, 2002

Laid off August 31, 2001. Got another job in October. Laid off from that job December 17, 2001. Sucks to be me.
posted by acridrabbit at 3:38 PM on January 8, 2002

What argybarg said.
It's just incredible how many people consider web as a viable new career option. Seems like I can't spend a week without hearing someone say "yeah, I did Economics/Laws/Whatever because I had no better idea, but now I figured out, hey, I love websurfing and I got a cracked version of Photoshop on my father's computer, so now I want to be a webdesigner and get rich quick".
Is it the same around you ?
That really scares me, 'cause that's one of many reasons why The Market is going down : newcomers keep getting on board because they think "it's so easy to make money this way", take a 3 weeks "Build Your Own Website" late-night class, and start looking for a job, and GET ONE because they don't mind starting with a low salary (and employers don't mind having cheap monkeys around to make the dirty work).
Freelancers and those who started work in Multimedia for a good reason are getting hit in the face by kiddies who lower the price tags. Internet-work is not being taken seriously anymore, "my friend's son says he could do it for less" and everything...

Oh well, I guess I need some sleep... Sorry for the rant...
posted by XiBe at 3:40 PM on January 8, 2002

You shouldn't be so confident in the position you're in now akmonday...
I got laid off four months ago by Disney from a web dev job. Yeah, there's jobs out there but the last interviewer I spoke to told me I was one of over 700 applicants for what I thought was a bit of a crap position.
I was out with some friends the other night and didn't know whether to laugh or cry when a friend of a friend told me he had just left his job and enrolled in a web development course at the local community college. I just smiled, said nothing, and kept drinking.
But yeah, sucks to be a steel worker too.
Do I see it getting better? I see it leveling off mid- this year but I don't see it getting better for a while.
Do I whine too much?
posted by TiggleTaggleTiger at 3:41 PM on January 8, 2002

Things will get better for all laid off workers when Allen Greenspan gets laid off.

He said himself that the economy needed to "cool off" just when the dot com world was begining to make it to the next level. Now he's trying to un-do his dastardly mistake, but it's far too late.

All the nay-sayers tried to paint the Internet sector as a bunch of young kids who didnt know what they were doing, but they would have done fine if Greenspan hadn't tinkered with the entire economy by continually raising interest rates to stymie growth.

Sure the bad companies would have died anyway, but the ripple effect that Greenspan dealt hit sectors of business that were living off of this new world - like Xerox and Lucent who are now in shambles.

The Internet wasn't just a bunch of greedy young idealists, it was run by many web designers, IT brainiacs, accountants and people of all walks of life who experienced opportunities that this country hasnt seen in generations.

In order to bring it back, there needs to be leadership in Washington that understands the Internet and its potential and its present day value, which is way higher than most give it credit for.

It did not need to crash like it did. It was terrorized by a handful of critics and pummeled by a handful of old white senior citizens who wouldnt know a hard drive from a hard-on.
posted by tsarfan at 3:41 PM on January 8, 2002

As someone who made a fair amount of money as a web writer and editor, I am without a doubt very poor right now...however I know that my word skills can be applied to newspapers, magazines, and books. Unfortunately, however, everyone else who was doing web word-smithing has also figured this out. Anything involving publishing of any sort is hard to find these days.

Still, I consider myself better off than those poor steel workers.
posted by arielmeadow at 4:16 PM on January 8, 2002

I think you're being unfair tsarfan. I think the primary reason the crash happened was because the venture capitalists realised they weren't going to get the returns they expected and pulled the plug. The maths was wrong. They thought that everyone with access to the Net would shop on the Net and that people would actually click through banner ads. They were wrong. Whch isn't to say money can't be made from the Net, it's just much, much harder than people thought.
posted by Summer at 4:29 PM on January 8, 2002

*snort* Lucent? Lucent bought Livingston for $600M, neglected the hell out of that company, then bought Ascend, and did the same thing. I dare anyone to divine any type of plan in Lucent's actions, other than ego-driven acquisition madness.

Bad craziness, and I suspect it's about to get worse.
posted by dglynn at 4:36 PM on January 8, 2002

acridrabbit - Replace 2001 with 2000 in your post and that's me, exactly. The good news is that if your 2002 tracks with my 2001, come March you'll get an offer just above your 2001 high water mark and be there throughout the year.

That inquiry from finance the outfit in Bermuda won't pan out, though.

tsarfan - The bubble is not coming back, nor should it. And it was a bubble, one that let people who (in the most chartiable view) didn't know any better squander the money of people who should have.
posted by NortonDC at 4:58 PM on January 8, 2002

tsarfan, you sound like you're in heavy, heavy denial. The demise of the New Internet Economy is the fault of Alan Greenspan and Old People? I suppose the fact that there was no viable economic model for making money off internet ventures was a footnote to you?
posted by argybarg at 4:59 PM on January 8, 2002

The problem with people like steelworkers is that often they live in a small town that only has one, maybe two, factories. If the factory closes down, boom...they're screwed completely. It's hard to move.

We dot-commers are generally in cities with lots of companies, many who still need services we can offer, and we are generally younger and it's easier to move, get a roommate, do what you need to do to get out.

I think middle America has it harder than we (city dot-commers) think.
posted by aacheson at 5:07 PM on January 8, 2002

When I started with my first dotcom, I was thrilled with the high pay, exciting environment, and crazy atmosphere. But I also knew that I was just like the people who moved west when the west was a great frontier. While the land was cheap and fertile, you could die in so many different ways -- be it the people you were displacing, the animals in the forest, the weather, or just the remote location.
When I got laid off much later from a different company, I knew it was going to happen eventually. I've landed on my feet (thank God) but I have a lot of friends who are still looking, and they all have the same general feeling that the high risk career can offer great riches (both monetarily and in job satisfaction) but it can also offer some stinging barbs.
So I'm sure I'll get heat for this, but anybody who is shocked or unprepared for their layoff from a dotcom or Internet position has simply been fooling themselves.
And I have to wish good luck to anyone who is still looking.
posted by fnirt at 8:10 PM on January 8, 2002

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